The American Academy of Achievement celebrated its 50th anniversary International Achievement Summit in Washington, D.C. from October 24 to 27, 2012. Approximately 100 young delegates from 30 nations gathered to learn from the experience of distinguished figures in politics and public service, the arts and letters, science and business. Many of this year's delegates are deploying modern technology to revolutionize health care, education, journalism, government and international development. A number of them were selected by the U.S. Department of State as the most promising young social media innovators and technology entrepreneurs from around the world. Seventeen new honorees were inducted into the Academy, joining the delegates, returning honorees and special guests in a series of discussions held in some of the most significant locations of the capital city.
Members of the Academy attending the 2012 Summit included such distinguished public servants as: the Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor; Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; Attorney General Eric Holder; CIA Director David Petraeus; former Secretary of State Colin Powell; former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott; Congressman Edward J. Markey; former NATO commander Joseph Ralston; Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles; former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley; ACLU Director Anthony Romero and consumer crusader Ralph Nader. The assembled Academy members included a number of honored scientists: the father of the World Wide Web, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee; Nobel Prize recipients Dr. Peter Agre, Dr. John Mather, Dr. Ferid Murad, Adam Riess and Roger Tsien; the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins; Director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci; Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Steven Rosenberg; MIT President Emeritus Susan Hockfield; biomedical engineer Robert Langer and famed neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson; undersea explorer Sylvia Earle; paleoanthropologist Lee Berger; and economist Nouriel Roubini.
A host of Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and journalists joined their fellow Academy members at the Summit: Rick Atkinson, Louise Glück, Natasha Trethewey, Dana Priest and Neil Sheehan. The world of broadcast journalism was represented by Academy members Sam Donaldson and Chris Matthews, as well as Wolf Blitzer and Chris Wallace of CNN and Fox News, respectively.
Business leaders among the Academy members in attendance included financiers Ray Dalio and Jim Rogers; AOL co-founder Steve Case; Washington Post chairman Donald Graham; UnderArmour founder and CEO Kevin Plank; David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group; and MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor.
The Host Chairman of the 2012 Summit was Catherine B. Reynolds, Chairman and CEO of The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. The Summit was made possible by a generous grant from The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation.
On the first evening of the Summit, honorees and delegates convened at the Top of the Hay, on the top floor of Washington's elegant Hay-Adams Hotel, with its panoramic view of the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. The view was all the more vivid as it was a miraculously warm, clear evening for Washington in October. Shortly after arriving, the delegates heard from Academy member Donald Graham, longtime Chairman of the Washington Post Company. Graham described the transformation in media technology that has taken place since he entered the newspaper business in the 1970s. He also recalled the role played by his newspaper in publishing the Pentagon Papers, investigating the Watergate burglary and subsequent cover-up, and in the major court rulings that followed, securing freedom of the press in the United States. Graham was followed by the Post's managing editor, Marcus Brauchli, who enlarged on the impact of social media on news gathering and reporting.
Later in the evening, the assembled Academy members and delegates heard from journalist and author David Brooks. He discussed the necessity of learning to compensate for one's weaknesses, illustrating his theme with anecdotes from the lives of Dwight Eisenhower, General George Marshall and the Catholic labor activist Dorothy Day. Brooks was followed at the lectern by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who recalled his earlier career in Congress and mourned the lost spirit of bipartisan cooperation that marked the House in that era. He decried the failure of the current Congress to place the national interest above partisan ones. The final speaker of the evening was General David Petraeus, Director of the CIA. Like the previous speakers, he emphasized the importance of subordinating self-interest to public duty, and praised the men and women of America's intelligence services, whose efforts must remain forever unknown to the general public. Brooks, Panetta and General Petraeus were all inducted into the Academy on the first evening of the 2012 Summit.
The program continued the next morning at the Hay-Adams with an address by Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The following speaker, veteran broadcast journalist Chris Wallace, answered searching questions from the Academy's delegates on the role of television news in the new media environment. Dr. Robert Langer examined another revolutionary technology, describing the work of his laboratory at MIT, the largest biochemistry research facility in the world.
In addition to the many Academy members and special guests who spoke during the Summit, a number of the Academy's young delegates addressed the Summit, beginning with Ruth Barnett, a pioneer of social media in British journalism, and Chilean blogger Paloma Baytelman. Author and Academy member Rick Atkinson, winner of three Pulitzer Prizes, also spoke on Thursday morning. He is now completing the third volume of his Liberation Trilogy, recounting the Allied triumph over fascism in World War II. MicroStrategy founder and CEO Michael Saylor described a near future in which all transactions will be conducted with mobile devices, while cash, keys and other commonplaces become obsolete. The last speaker of the morning was the Honorable Richard M. Daley, who discussed his many achievements as Chicago's longest-serving mayor, and the challenges facing the modern city.
Over lunch, the Summit attendees heard from delegate Josh Nesbit, founder of the nonprofit Medic Mobile, which uses low-cost mobile technology to facilitate health care delivery in underdeveloped countries. The Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, elaborated further on the impact of new technologies on medical research and health care.
Following lunch, Academy members and delegates traveled to the headquarters of the National Geographic Society, where they were met by the Society's Explorer-in-Residence, Academy member Sylvia Earle. Dr. Earle made a short video presentation of her work exploring the ocean's depths, and took questions form the Academy's delegates. She was followed onstage by Greg Marshall, the inventor of "Crittercam." Marshall showed a short video sample of the many films he has shot with this device mounted on wild animals, showing the world in motion from the animal's point of view.
The paleoanthropologist Lee Berger gave a polished presentation of his discoveries, unearthing the remains of the human race's most remote ancestors. He was followed by the award-winning nature photographer Joel Sartore, who gave a dazzling survey of his work. Both Dr. Berger and Joel Sartore were inducted into the Academy of Achievement by Dr. Earle. The session at the National Geographic Society closed with an address by one of the pioneers of the digital age, America Online founder Steve Case.
For the Thursday evening program, the Academy traveled to the Supreme Court of the United States, gathering in the historic courtroom where so many crucial cases of constitutional law have been decided. They were welcomed to the Court by Chief Justice John Roberts. An enthusiast of British history, Justice Roberts noted that the day's date was the anniversary of two historic battles celebrated in works of literature, from which he drew a lesson for our times. At the Battle of Agincourt, memorialized by Shakespeare in Henry V, the outnumbered British exploited a new technology, the Welsh longbow, to overcome a numerically superior French force that lacked this weapon. In the Battle of Balaklava, described in Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade," the British lost an entire unit in an archaic cavalry charge against modern Russian artillery. One tale demonstrated the wisdom of recognizing a new reality, the other the folly of ignoring it.
Justice Roberts was followed by three of his associates, Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, and a distinguished brother jurist, Justice Morris Fish from the Supreme Court of Canada. The Justices gave a candid account of their work on the bench, and of the similarities and differences among the legal systems of the U.S., Canada and other nations. The Justices also addressed a number of questions from the Academy's delegates. A particularly memorable exchange occurred when a delegate from Mexico, contemplating the possibility of reforming his own country's constitution, asked what has made the U.S. Constitution so durable. Justice Kennedy immediately replied that it is the legitimacy conveyed in the document's first three words, "We the People." The assembled Academy members and delegates dined with the Justices at the Court. Justice Sotomayor's colleagues, all Academy members, inducted her into the Academy, presenting her with the Academy's Gold Medal. Justice Sotomayor spoke of the impact her upbringing had on her later success and stressed the role of character in achievement, "It's not what you do," she said, "it's who you are."
From the Supreme Court, the assembly traveled to the Lincoln Memorial, where they were met by Academy member Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball political discussion program. Matthews spoke from the steps of the memorial, with the illuminated statue of Abraham Lincoln for a backdrop. Drawing on his experience in the White House and on Capitol Hill, he praised the ideals embodied in the capital's monuments, and in a spirited give-and-take with the Academy delegates, forcefully defended America's role in the world. From the Lincoln Memorial, the delegates walked to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where Pulitzer Prize-winning author Neil Sheehan recalled his experience as a war correspondent in that conflict, and its significance for the United States and the world. He also recounted his role in disclosing the classified Pentagon Papers, and the impact of the Supreme Court decision that sanctioned their publication.
Friday morning's program resumed at the Hay-Adams with an address by education pioneer Salman Khan, founder of the nonprofit online Khan Academy. Following a question-and-answer session with delegates, Khan was inducted into the Academy by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Pulitzer Prize reporter Dana Priest discussed her exploits as an investigative journalist with The Washington Post. The Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero, presented the challenges he faces preserving constitutional rights in the midst of a war on terrorism. Dr. Steven Rosenberg, Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute, recounted the experiences that led to his pioneering studies of immunotherapy for cancer. Two more 2012 delegates spoke during the course of the morning: Ari Wallach described his innovative work as a media strategy consultant for public and private sector clients; Shaka Sisulu gave an engaging account of his work as the founder of the South African youth charity Cheesekids, complete with visual aids and a brisk survey of distinctive facets of South Africa's dramatic history.
The Academy traveled to the Department of State for lunch in the elegant Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room with its magnificent collection of Americana. The assembly was welcomed by Ann Stock, the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. She spoke briefly of the sacrifices made by America's foreign service officers, at its 265 embassies, consulates and other diplomatic posts around the world -- a subject on the mind of many present following the assassination of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Libya.
The Academy's midday program was moderated by veteran broadcast journalist Sam Donaldson. The speakers included three of the Academy's 2012 delegates who have used information technology to advance the cause of freedom in their respective countries
Dr. Khaled Elmufti, a technology entrepreneur from Libya, recounted his experience of the recent revolution in Libya. When the dictator Muammar Gaddafi shut down the nation's cellular network to block rebel communications, Elmufti established an alternative wireless network that kept the lines of communication open for Libyans resisting the dictatorship. Bassem Bouguerra, a veteran of Silicon Valley, described his effort to deploy information and communications technology to assist the democratic transition in his native Tunisia. The Chinese blogger who writes under the pseudonym Michael Anti discussed his struggle to practice free speech over the Internet in China, in the face of government harassment and persecution.
Another of the Academy's delegates spoke when the Academy returned to the Hay-Adams for the afternoon's program. Patrick Meier discussed his work as a pioneer of crisis mapping technology with the nonprofit Ushahidi, and now with the Qatar Foundation's Computing Research Institute. The program continued with a dual presentation by two Nobel Prize physicists, Dr. John Mather and Adam Riess. Mather and Riess explained their efforts to explore the past and future of the universe. The Academy enjoyed a special privilege Friday afternoon -- a return visit with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who engaged in a wide-ranging discussion with the Academy's delegates.
Friday evening, the Academy moved to the United States Capitol. In the Senate wing of the Capitol, the Academy heard from two distinguished former Senators, Max Cleland of Georgia and former majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi. Senator Cleland captured his audience immediately with a wise and witty account of the against-the-odds political career he pursued after losing one arm and both legs in Vietnam. Senator Lott shared the many lessons of his time in the Senate, and some he has learned since. Although they belong to different parties, Senators Cleland and Trent Lott spoke of one another with notable warmth, and of the need for bipartisan cooperation in the halls of Congress.
Following a substantive question-and-answer session with the two senators, the entire assembly crossed from the Senate to the House side of the Capitol, passing through the dazzling dome of the rotunda and Statuary Hall for dinner in the House of Representatives' Rayburn Room. On the House side, they were welcomed by Congressman Edward J. Markey, who spoke of the historic role of the House of Representatives as the "people's house" -- the seat of American democracy and a model for emerging democracies around the world. After dinner, Representative Markey led the assembly onto the floor of the House of Representatives. With the Academy's members and delegates seated on the benches normally occupied by members of Congress, Markey discussed the changes in telecommunications since he first came to Congress in 1977. He emphasized the positive role that well-crafted legislation can play, such as the bill he authored that freed unused bandwidth for innovation and competition. From among the seated Academy members, Markey introduced the father of the World Wide Web, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee. The two engaged the delegates in an exploration of the future of the World Wide Web, and the role of telecommunications in a democratic society. Sir Timothy Berners-Lee inducted Representative Markey into the Academy of Achievement, presenting him with the Academy's Gold Medal.
The final day of the 2012 Summit began at the Hay-Adams, with a presentation by the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Renowned for his pioneering discoveries in the diagnosis and treatment of HIV-AIDS, Dr. Fauci related the work of his institute in combating diseases. The Academy heard from several distinguished practitioners of the life sciences on Saturday morning. Nobel Prize recipient Roger Tsien elaborated on his groundbreaking work synthesizing fluorescent protein molecules, now widely used in cancer and Alzheimer's research. Dr. Susan Hockfield, who recently stepped down after eight years as President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, considered her own work as a neuroscientist and educator.
During the Saturday morning session, two new members of the Academy shared their unique perspectives on the world economy. International investor Jim Rogers presented highlights of his travels around the world. His greatest achievement, he noted, was becoming a father for the first time at age 60. The economist Dr. Nouriel Roubini, who correctly predicted the global financial crisis of 2008, engaged the delegates in a conversation on the current state of the world economy. Delegate Jessica Colaço described her work promoting information and communications technology in East Africa through her Nairobi-based research facility iHub. The last speaker of the morning, Dr. Benjamin Carson, shared the values that guided him from an impoverished youth to a career as a brain surgeon famed for his life-saving feats of ingenuity and dexterity.
Over lunch at the Hay-Adams, the Academy heard from the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder. The nation's top law enforcement officer, he outlined his role heading the Department of Justice, the world's largest law office, responsible for enforcing the nation's laws. He admitted the demands his commitment to service has placed on his personal life, and answered a number of questions from the Academy's delegates concerning the many responsibilities of the Justice Department. David Rubenstein, a founder of private equity giant The Carlyle Group, discussed the roles of learning, work and philanthropy as the three stages of a fulfilling career.
Saturday afternoon's program took the Academy to historic Ford's Theatre, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated nearly 150 years ago. Seated on the stage of the historic auditorium, the Academy members and delegates heard from consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who addressed the negative aspects of social media. While many of the Summit's speakers see social media as a vital venue for organizing political action, Nader suggested that the new media disperse citizens' involvements in an ever-expanding number of causes and organizations, reducing direct participation in any of them.
Another speaker of the afternoon was Ray Dalio, founder of the world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates. Dalio gave a straightforward description of the principles that guide his business decisions. He stressed the value of surrounding yourself with people who compensate for your own shortcomings. He emphasized the importance of understanding the chain of causation in historic events, and for recognizing recurring phenomena in markets, and in life. The recently appointed Poet Laureate of the United States, Natasha Trethewey, posed the question, "Why Poetry?" By way of an answer, she read her poem "Mexico," in which a childhood memory links past, present and eternity, demonstrating the power of language to erase the barriers of time and space. The last speaker of the afternoon was the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa. Responding to Trethewey's query, he set himself the question, "Why Politics?" Mayor Villaraigosa defended the profession of politics, the hard choices that public service requires, and the need for leaders to look past the needs of partisan constituencies to pursue the greater public good.
The international Achievement Summit culminated in the formal Banquet of the Golden Plate, held in the elegant Willard Room of Washington's historic Willard Hotel. The 2012 ceremony was conducted by broadcast journalist Wolf Blitzer. After the presentation of the Academy's Golden Plate Award to the Class of 2012, the Academy heard musical performances by two of its talented delegates, Christina Perri and Colbie Caillat. Following dinner, General Colin Powell and his wife Alma took the stage to introduce an old friend of the Academy, the legendary singer Aretha Franklin. The "Queen of Soul" performed some of her most famous songs -- "Respect," "Chain of Fools," and "Think" -- and was joined onstage by the Powells and a host of Academy members and delegates for a stirring rendition of "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman."
The following day, as Hurricane Sandy approached Washington, the Academy's delegates hurried to return to their far-flung homes. A new generation of leaders had gathered from around the world, meeting one another for the first time. They had interacted with the most accomplished practitioners in many walks of life, and had enjoyed the opportunity to correlate their wisdom across the lines of formal academic disciplines. Their interaction with Academy members, and with one another, sharing their own experiences of applying the latest technology in the service of humanity, will inform their service as they shape the world of the future.
See what The Washington Post had to say about the 2012 International Achievement Summit:
Achievement Summit brings intellectual rebels together in D.C.
Catherine B. Reynolds meets with some of the 2012 Academy honor delegates.
Donald Graham, the Chairman of The Washington Post Company, welcomes Academy delegates to Washington, DC.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta addresses the Academy at the Top of the Hay on the first night of the Summit.
General Petraeus receives the Gold Medal of the Academy from author, journalist and historian Rick Atkinson.
Catherine B. Reynolds. Richard M. Daley, Brendan and Lila Sullivan.
Chris Wallace addresses the Summit.
Dr. Robert Langer discusses the future of biotechnology at the 2012 Summit.
Academy delegates enjoy a 3D film at the National Geographic Society.
Paleoanthropologist Lee Berger makes a presentation of his major discoveries.
Academy members and delegates arrive at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Ginsburg present the Gold Medal of the Academy to Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Academy members and delegates on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Chris Matthews addresses the Academy from steps of the Lincoln Memorial, looking across the reflecting pool to the Washington Monument.
Neil Sheehan recalls his experience as a reporter during the Vietnam War.
The Academy's guests pay a twilight visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Salman Khan receives the Gold Medal from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
West Point Cadet Hamid Nasir meets former U.S. Senator Max Cleland, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.
Former Senator Trent Lott gives the Academy delegates a personal tour of the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
Rep. Edward Markey speaks in the U.S. Capitol's Rayburn Room.
Khaled Elmufti, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, Scott Goodstein at the Capitol.
Academy Chairman Wayne Reynolds, Summit Host Catherine B. Reynolds and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Poet Louise Glück addresses the Academy at the Top of the Hay.
MIT's Susan Hockfield at the Summit.
Attorney General Eric Holder and the ACLU's Anthony Romero at the Summit.
Carlyle Group founder and director David Rubenstein at the Summit.
Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, on the stage of Ford's Theatre, speaks beneath the flag-draped box where President Lincoln was fatally shot.
Academy delegate Zachary Frankel meets hedge fund impresario Ray Dalio.
Academy delegates at the Banquet of the Golden Plate: Kara Andrade, Marwa Aleskafi, Philip Thigo, Julia Fan Li.
Ben Hammersley, Lisa Svensson and Claudia Calvin Venero with Colin Powell.
Wolf and Lynn Blitzer at the Banquet.
Nobel Laureates in Physics: John Mather (L) presents the Academy's Golden Plate Award to Adam Riess.
Poet Natasha Trethewey receives the Golden Plate from Benjamin Carson.
Nobel Laureates in Chemistry: Peter Agre (L) presents the Golden Plate Award of the Academy to Roger Tsien.
Academy delegate Christina Perri sings one of her hit songs at the Banquet.
Grammy-winning songwriter and Academy delegate Colbie Caillat performs her songs at the Banquet.
Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, performs at the Academy Banquet.
Aretha Franklin is joined onstage by Colin Powell and Academy delegates on the last night of the 50th annual Summit.